Field Ethics of Nature Photographers

Photo Net Discussion:

“A lot has been tossed around about violations and abuses by some nature photographers. One of the glaring gaps exposed by the facts and debate is the lack of effective leadership and advocacy in the nature photography community.” [Anonymous comment]

The fact is, ‘field ethics’ are beyond most professional organizations to control. We can, with education, help modify the behavior of some of the people within our ranks. But it is highly idealistic to assume that we can effectively control the behavior of nature photographers everywhere.

You can bet that the worst offenders among us are the least involved in any professional organization.

We bring our personal ethics into the field with us. We do not create them on the spot. The ethics we each have were instilled in us as a result of our life circumstances and the models that surrounded us.

For example, those who come from adversarial environments had less time as a young peron to focus on building a system of solid personal ethics. They constantly had to ‘shoot from the hip’ just to survive a hostile environment.

I like to think that the majority of nature photographers share my views of the world but, frankly, they do not. Some so-called nature photographers are out to ‘get the shot’ no matter what the cost. I am not. Some so-called nature photographers also are willing to put wildlife at risk if it means getting the shot. I will not.

I have traveled widely, and I have a solid base in conservation and environmental politics. Most nature shooters do not.

But you can’t look to NANPA or any other photography organization to instill Earth-friendly ethics in shooters. This is something you have to do for yourself. You have to evaluate your own system of ethics and see where they fall – and where they fall may very well surprise you!

In other words, clean your own house first.

One’s ehavior in the field reflects how a person lives in the world. Some of us are better models than others and, frankly, some so-called nature photographers are poor to middlin’ models at best.

Steer clear of them.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. © 2010 Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph. All rights reserved.

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